Google and Facebook turn away bail bond ads

Two things that can both be true:

1) we should find a better system than cash bail;

2) in the mean time bail bond services provide a needed service for some families.

Or as I put it in my new National Review piece:

This week Google and Facebook announced that they would stop accepting ads for bail-bond services. It’s the perfect moral gesture for our times: It makes a grand statement, keeps pressure groups happy, reminds us that the tech giants have weight to throw around, and leaves its intended beneficiaries no better and perhaps imperceptibly worse off.

I go on to discuss stigmatization as a substitute for policy, which sorts of practices if adopted would probably serve as a substitute for cash bail, and the widely held notion that mass incarceration in the contemporary U.S. arose from a plot to expand business revenue. The piece concludes:

If one is going to be suspicious of mercenary motives in the justice system, I recommend starting with the providers among whom defendants’ families do not get to pick and choose in their hour of need in a relatively competitive market. That would include probation providers and jail phone-call providers — and, yes, some firms involved with private prisons.

Of course, those companies aren’t big advertisers, since the only customer they need to convince is the law-enforcement agency. So Google and Facebook are spared the need to worry about what posture to strike toward them.

Whole thing here. For a different view, here’s Google’s Senior Counsel on Civil and Human Rights writing together with the chairman of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce and general counsel for Koch Industries. [Malika Saada Saar and Mark Holden]


  • I have a relatively simple answer. If the State charges and individual and the individual is not convicted, the State will pay for reasonable attorney fees and costs associated with defending the case. The offices responsible for payment of the fees will be the arresting entity (until there is an arraignment) then that entity and the prosecutor’s office.

    I would also eliminate all fees on individuals for being jailed and for being found guilty. These should be societal costs. If society wants to punish and individual, it should do so through fines and penalties determined by the legislature. Also, anyone jailed and then not convicted would be entitled to compensation for the time he/she was jailed as well as time spent defending the case.

    Yes, this would put a greater cost on the government for criminal law enforcement, but I fail to understand why society as a whole should not pay for this. On the plus side, this might result in fewer bogus prosecutions and a smaller incarceration rate. On the negative side, we might have more “crime” (however, given that we all commit 4 crimes a day or so, that might not be a bad thing)

  • I would also eliminate all fees on individuals for being jailed and for being found guilty. These should be societal costs.

    “Society” did not commit the crime. “Society” did not add costs in physical damages and or angst of victims.

    If a person wants to act outside of societal norms and what society has agreed to, is it not up to “society” to pay their freight. It is on them.

    • And how exactly is someone sitting in jail/prison supposed to pay those costs with no source of income?

      Then we make it very difficult for them to find legitimate legal work after they get out and at the same time saddle them with huge debts to the government that they can be sent back to prison for failing to pay.

      How do you expect that to work? Do you actually intend to force them back into a life of crime to survive after they get out?

      • MattS,

        First, most people won’t stay in jail forever. They will get out eventually. If they can pay the fines after the get out, so be it.

        “We” don’t make it difficult for them to find jobs. Once again you are ascribing the consequences of people’s actions onto others. If anything, one would think that not having a record would be an incentive to not break the law and incur the costs. However, what seems even more clear is that the people that don’t break the law should not have to pay the fines, fees and costs of people who do break the law.

        Also, I have no idea where you work or how many people you have hired in your lifetime. For me, it is well over a thousand and have hired people with records before. (If you have hired people before, how many people with records have you hired?)

        I am not sure what you are asking on “how to expect that to work?” Here’s a clue and a good place to start: don’t do the crime.

        To expect law abiding citizens to pay for the illegal acts of others is a disincentive to follow the law. Why should anyone follow the law if someone else is going to pick up the tab?

        (For the record, I would be for lowering fines and requiring restitution to victims instead, but that is another issue.)

      • gitacarver,

        I disagree. Society determines what is anti-social behavior and how to punish it. If society decides that the behavior requires incarceration, that means society thinks that the value of incarcerating a person is greater than the value of keeping the person free. Thus, it is a societal cost.

        Placing the cost of incarceration on the incarcerated takes away a disincentive. That is, if society has to pay for incarceration, society will have to decide how to pay for it. If society does not pay for it, there is no disincentive to just not make everything a crime.

        And we should note: this is about societal norms. In some cultures, murder is accepted, but not ours. On the other hand, in our culture women don’t have to wear burkas. Right and wrong, therefore, is situational. To enforce the concepts, society makes a choice and it must bear the cost of making the choice. So too must those who act outside the norms, but taking away the freedom to be in society is the cost to them.

        • Allen,

          The converse must be true as well: if someone in society wishes to act against society, that is a value choice that they make and not society. If one wants to choose a course of action that will result in incarceration and costs them money, that is on them, not on society.

          Placing the cost of incarceration on the incarcerated takes away a disincentive.

          So making people pay for what they have chosen is a disincentive? Are you sure you want to stick with that?

          To follow your thinking, speeding tickets should carry no costs, other than drivers with good records paying fines. Code enforcement fines in areas / standards that harm others should be paid for by the people who have followed the codes, rather than those who have not. Want to keep your house and yard a snake and vermin place? No problem. Your neighbors will gladly pay for that which you will not do.

          Are fines too high? Maybe. Probably even. But to say that law abiding people should have to pay for the illegal actions of others is ridiculous.

          • No. Let me put it a different way. If paying for incarceration is what we want, fine. Make it a part of the penalty for the crime. It should be set up front. Truth in punishment.

            An example, if the penalty for speeding is $100, that is the max you pay. Right now, at least where I live, there can be extra court costs making it cost 2 or 3 times as much..

            I am all for convicted criminals paying for the consequences of their actions. I just want it to be transparent . Currently, it is opaque.

          • Allen,

            I don’t know where you live, but in the several places I have lived, court costs were easily known.

            Secondly, you are still asking / demanding that people that have done nothing pay for the actions of others. Society already does pay a large portion of the costs involved but I see nothing wrong with making the criminal pay for a greater share.

            There is another solution and I would be for this: years ago Chuck Colson advocated for a restitution model for justice. Many, if not most, of the crimes that are committed have a cost associated with them that is born by the victim. Let the criminal pay for those costs to make the victim whole again. If you steal something, pay the victim back. If you drive into their car because you are drunk, you pay the victim back……

            Such a model teaches the criminal the value of their crimes and proves to them that someone worked hard for the item they stole, damaged, etc.

            Your position leads to the inevitable question of “why is it in civil cases do we place the burden of costs on those who are guilty, but in criminal cases, you want to place the cost on the victims / society?”

            Sorry my friend. I don’t understand that thinking.

      • Usually when people actually get arrested and go through a booking process its because its a serious crime and when people are charged with a serious crime they usually lose their jobs or at a minimum they are suspended. The low level felonies are released almost immediately after and arrest and all misdemeanors are “cite and released” at least here in CA.

  • Kentucky has gotten it close to right. We banned for profit bailbondsmen and bounty hunters back in the 1970’s. Now the accused pays bail to a division of the courts, usually 10% cash. If the accused is not convicted they get the money back. If he is convicted the money goes toward any fines.
    Bounty hunters are required to present their paperwork to a Kentucky court to get a Kentucky warrant which is then served by Kentucky LEOs who are usually a little more professional than Dog the Bounty Hunter.

  • Raising the expense on the system of not guilty verdicts will result in fewer not guilty verdicts. Also even harding pushing to cut a plea. Some people may run the system fairly, but the problem is those who don’t have even less incentive for not guilty verdicts.